New storm batters western Norway

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UPDATED: Another severe storm moved in over western Norway on Wednesday, forcing road closures, halting ferry traffic and knocking out power to thousands of households and businesses. The storm eased, then blew up again and was still causing problems on Thursday.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday morning that nearly all highways over the mountains of southern Norway and many roads in northern Norway as well were closed. In Troms County, four skiers from Switzerland found themselves stranded by high winds and zero visibility while attempting a trek in the mountains at Lyngen. They had to dig themselves down into the snow and were rescued by the Red Cross around midnight.

Troms and Finnmark hit hard
More than 30 roads were closed in Troms and Finnmark Thursday morning because of the latest storm. Extremely strong winds were causing the biggest problems. Around 90 persons had to spend the night at the airport at Lakselv, after their flight from Oslo to Alta had to be redirected. Hotels in Lakselv were full because of road closures that already had stranded other travelers.

Meanwhile, in both northern and southern Norway, avalanche danger remained high after two persons were killed by a snow- and rockslide earlier this week.

The bodies of Jon Lerheim, age 60, and Eva Anna Christa Fleming, age 55, were found Tuesday afternoon and evening, nearly a full day after the house where they lived near Balestrand, in the county of Sogn og Fjordane, was swept off its foundation by a powerful slide. The couple was in the house at the time, and one of their bodies was found nearly a kilometer away, in the fjord.

Snowpack like a sponge
Other residents of the area have been evacuated and geologists warned of more slides. Bitter cold earlier in the winter combined with a lack of precipitation has made the winter snowpack like a sponge, one geologist told newspaper Aftenposten. With temperatures now rising and storms moving in, the snowpack is far more likely to give way instead of melting slowly, he said.

The new storm was thus making matters worse in both Sogn og Fjordane and the neighbouring county of Hordaland. The bad weather and avalanche danger resulted in only one road remaining open over the mountains, the E134 over Haukelifjell, and it was restricted to convoys only of large vehicles.

Otherwise, the main east-west routes over the mountains of southern Norway were all closed including RV7 over Hardangervidda, RV 15 over Strynefjellet, FV50 between Hol and Aurland, the E16 highway over Filefjell, RV52 over Hemsedalsfjellet and RV 13 over Vikafjellet.

“No, it’s not easy to drive today between east and west,” Morten Hansen of the state highway department (Statens Vegvesen) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

It was pouring rain along the west coast and gale winds were blowing in northern Norway, reported NRK. Schools were closed in Nordland County and nearly all ferries and fast-ferries in Troms County were cancelled, after what state meteorologists called a “polar low pressure system” stirred up strong winds coming in off the Norwegian Sea.

The meteorologists reported “full storm” at Vesterålen, and it was stormy south to Trøndelag as well. Large portions of Frøya and Hitra were without power. Flooding was reported at Kvamsskogen in Hordaland, at Orkdal and elsewhere in Trøndelag.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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